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Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Biennials and Such

Posted by on August 9 at 14:16 PM

Through October 8, Portland Art Museum has up its Oregon Biennial. This is worth the drive for three reasons: 1. Its good reviews. 2. These artists are so close to here, we should know exactly what they’re up to. 3. It’s an introduction to PAM’s new curator of Northwest art, Jennifer Gately, who started in January and put together this multimedia extravaganza including painting by Storm Tharp (I like Tharp’s wall sculpture Maybelline, below), and Chandra Bocci’s Gummi Bear Big Bang II, a reimagining of the work she had in the 2003 biennial. (Shown here is II.)

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tharp10_big.jpg

Tacoma Art Museum’s Northwest biennial opens in February, but this week curator Rock Hushka, who made the selections with David Kiehl, curator of prints at the Whitney, announced the artists on the list:

Victoria Adams
Juan Alonso
Daniel Attoe
Jay Backstrand
Justin Colt Beckman
Nicholas Brown
Cris Bruch
Buddy Bunting
Sally Cleveland
Judy Cooke
Claire Cowie
Mark Danielson
Susan Dory
Joe Feddersen
Ellen Garvens
John Grade
Victoria Haven
Patrick Holderfield
Denzil Hurley
Sarah Jane Lapp
Anya Kivarkis
Mack McFarland
Mark Takamichi Miller
Steven Miller
Jeffry Mitchell
Brian Murphy
Natalie Niblack
Nicholas Nyland
Mary Ann Peters
Jim Riswold
Phil Roach
Alex Schweder
Michael Spafford
Juniper Shuey
SuttonBeresCuller
Lisa Sweet
Keith Tilford
Marie Watt
Sherrie Wolf
Robert Yoder
Claude Zervas

Painting-drawing-sketches by Peters, Mitchell (sketchbooks!), Holderfield, and Tilford are in a ravishing 19th-century-to-contemporary drawings show at James Harris this month that you really don’t want to miss.

Holderfield is up next at James Harris, with a solo show I can’t wait to see in September, of his wild painting-drawings on paper and an installation. The show is titled Pilgrim and has plenty of images of fire. This is Arson 11.

arson11.jpg


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Jen: "This is worth the drive for three reasons..."

Hey, Jen. I'm going to Portland this weekend, and I'll probably check out this exhibit, but why should you assume that I am, or anyone else is, driving? Actually, I'm taking the train. Not only do I save the planet 350 miles of fossil fuel burning, but I save myself quite a bit of aggravation.

Anyway, we're talking the visual-arts crowd, which seems to have some correlation with the urban, train-riding crowd. It's not like you're telling us to drive on down to Portland this weekend for a tractor pull.

mmm gummi bears... Do I get in trouble if I eat the installation? hehe.

Praise be, Cressona! God loves you for not driving a car. Did you know that gasoline is made from the blood of cute, cute puppies? The ones with really big eyes and sad faces?

Jesus fucking christ. The only thing worse than a smug environmentalist is a smug, self-congratulatory, holier-than-thou environmentalist with an axe to grind.

Seriously, Cressona -- drop it already. Yeah, we all get that you have to comment negatively on every visual arts post on the Slog, but this one's lame even for you.

Wow, I guess I struck a nerve. I'm sorry, I never got the memo that blogs are not the appropriate place for readers to point out writers' biases -- or at least those biases that certain angry readers might actually share.

Dude, you're just grasping at straws. An anti-environmental bias, revealed by the casual use of "worth the drive" rather than "worth the Amtrak train ride"? Come on. Pathetic.

Next you'll complain that the post is biased against the blind because it's about visual art, or biased against immigrants because it's written in English.

How about just "worth the trip"?

A couple years ago, I emailed a Seattle Times reporter for using the term "drivers" when he meant something more general like "commuters." He was assuming that everyone getting from Point A to Point B was driving.

He was kind enough to take the time to reply to me and tell me that it was a phrasing he had struggled with in the past to express concisely. At least he was aware of the issue and that it was an issue.

Anyway, last I checked, the existence of blind people and immigrants wasn't causing global warming or funding Islamic terrorists or compromising our national security in $300 billion quagmires in hostile foreign lands. But I can understand why you would prefer not to be reminded of these things.

Hang on, I can't read your post, I'm blinded by your halo ...

Good thing you're out solving those problems instead of sitting in front of a computer and posting niggling linguistic comments on a websi-- oh, wait.

Has anyone else noticed that this list appears to be handpicked? I like Rock Hushka (the TAM curator who "helped" the invited juror) and respect that he wanted to make a strong statement down in the netherlands but, c'mon!, at least throw in a healthy portion of unknowns. Even as a smokescreen! If this were advertised as an invitational, I'd be fine with it. Pity the 900 artists who had no chance - they should be asking for their money back.

Incidentally, I wonder about the input of David Kiehl, the Whitney curator who supposedly juried this exhibition -- did he merely "green light" Rock's choices or did he actually have opinions?

Trains Rule! Thanks for helping fight the Real War, Cressona!

The second picture is very Cthulhoid.

I'm not sure I understand the criticsm re: "hand picked" selection and desire for "unknowns". This is what curators do, right... handpick. Are you suggesting that a Whitney curator would have no opinions? I consider myself someone who keeps up with local art production, and I only recognize maybe half of the artists. Since the application guidelines stated that heavy emphasis would be put on recent accomplishments, it only makes sense that a lot of the selected artists would be at least fairly well known. I think it was fairly clear what they were going for. I'm sure lots of worthy artists were left out - but ain't that just the way it goes with curation.

Taking the train is a terrific way to go (Portland's station is very nice), but I'm pretty sure it burns up some energy too.

Yeah, I never said trains suck (I like to ride the train too; yay, train! Rah-rah, train!). I just don't see how battling the evil hegemony of people who use the word "drive" casually is a particularly effective pro-alternative-transportation strategy, like Cressona seems to. Writing "the trip down to Portland" hardly makes people think, "Hey, my car is bad! I oughta take the train!"


baby steps, my friends... baby steps.

Mark S - Here's the thing: this is officially a juried exhibition. 900 -- NINE HUNDRED -- artists submitted slides, resume, etc. plus a decent-sized check to be considered for inclusion. I'll back off a bit about my feeling that Rock's "helping" went too far -- he's listed on TAM's site as a co-juror. Still, I find it fishy that he chose artists who are currently in vogue; it simply looks like a curated show. Maybe that's okay -- it sure will make a strong exhibition. What I meant by "unknowns" was that in a random selection of, oh, say 900 artists, there are likely to be quite a few ones whose work stands out and aren't currently on the Seattle/Portland radar. (The show was also open to Idaho and Montana artists.) I think that's a shame.

Far be it from me to defend museum curators - really, I have no reason to. However, I do sympathize with having to wade through 900 submissions. Probably, at least half should have thought twice about sending a check for a regional exhibit in a region that has an overabundance of artmakers. I'm sure, as much as anything, the curators or jurors' (is there really a difference there?) main goal was to put together a strong and representative show . That said, I don't dispute that there may have been a certain amount of fishiness going on.

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